What’s in a name? Or why marriage hasn’t changed mine

Why I didn't change my name after marriageIn another life, on another blog and in the run up to my own wedding, I wrote an article about how I planned not to change my name when I married.

I’ve now been married almost three years, with baby on the way. Three beautiful years of adventure with my husband Chris, partner in crime, love of my life, and father of our soon-to-be child. Three years during which my name has remained unchanged.

I recently took part in a feature for the Huffington Post on women who kept their names after marriage, what lead them to that decision, and how their families reacted. Putting my thoughts on this topic into words once again reminded me of the piece I wrote all those years ago, and I felt the time had come to revisit.

My original post, no longer public but saved in my personal archive, is remarkably angry. I was writing in response to an opinion piece I’d read in The Guardian, which sadly I can no longer find in the mists of the internet. In this piece the (female) author suggested that a woman taking her husband’s name in this day and age was simply un-feminist, an unacceptable surrender of identity to the patriarchy. To which my response is what a load of utter bollocks.

At the time I probably shared some choice four-letter words on Twitter. I’m sure that last time I checked, feminism was about a woman’s freedom to choose. To choose what to do with her own name, or her own body, or her own money, or her own career, etc etc. Why on earth would I throw off the silly tired-out rules of a patriarchal society only to replace them with someone else’s?

I chose not to change my name when I got married. My mum kept her name after marriage, and that was the example that I grew up with. To me the notion of what you did with your name was just another of those marriage decisions you had to make, like whether to share a bank account, where to live, or what booze to serve at the reception. I puzzled at why the expectation was still only on the woman to change her name; the solution that made perfect sense to me was for the couple to change their names together. Double-barrelling is the most common version of this, but you could hybridise your names into a brand new one, or even look through your family histories for a name that appeals to both parties. And in an age where society is finally, finally beginning to wake up to the reality of marriage and relationships beyond the heterosexual, the process of one party taking the name of the other isn’t the most functional solution.

Today, three years on, I am less angry (although no less sweary, and very unapologetic about that). Over that time I have been fortunate enough to see many dear female friends marry and change their names, and I championed their choice every step of the way. I have also seen friends choose to blend their names to create a new one all their own. All these choices are entirely equal to my own, because they were freely made. Feminism is about choice for all women, and in turn respecting the choice of another.

I guess what I’m trying to say is let’s respect the power of female choice, and embrace the sisterhood in all its forms and variations.

What do you think?